With his culinary passion, Tuncurry born and raised Jacob Leung’s new cookbook gets us excited about food and back in the kitchen.
Tell us how your journey into the culinary world began; were you always a foodie?
I always loved food and yes, I was a very chubby child. That’s what happens when your parents own a buffet restaurant, I guess. Today, if I am not in the kitchen you will probably find me at a restaurant or café.
You are one of Australia’s leading young food stylists – that’s quite a niche industry. How did you get started, and what type of things do you do?
Yes, it is a very niche industry. You could say I accidentally stumbled into the job. At the age of 19 I entered a cooking competition through Australian Good Taste Magazine (now taste.com). At the end of the competition, in which I won the People’s Choice Award, the Food Editor asked me if I had considered food styling. I had no idea what that meant or what it entailed; however, she offered me training – and from there it all started. Fast forward to now, I do work for editorial and television commercials. When you see that perfect burger on the TV that is not even close to what yours looks like in reality, that’s my fault. Sorry!
You’ve just released you first debut cookbook – that’s quite an achievement – but it’s more than just recipes. What’s the primary aim of the book?
The premise of the book is for people to get back into the kitchen by cooking simple recipes that are impressive! Good food doesn’t need to be complicated, and the book shows how to make that happen. Cooking should be enjoyed, not endured.
Explain the process of publishing your first cookbook?
It had been something I have wanted to do for years but never had the courage and commitment to execute such a project. The whole process has been such rollercoaster ride, but with such an epic team of extremely talented creatives, it has made the process a dream. With that said, let me also state for the record, I am in no hurry to write a second anytime in the near future.
You describe your book as an “anti cookbook”. What do you mean by this?
I must admit, I am addicted to buying cookbooks; however, one thing that is lacking in all of them is a sense of personality and fun! I wanted to go against the norms of a “normal” cookbook filled with just recipes, and rather make an anti-cookbook that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone, regardless of cooking abilities.
Young people are actually cooking less and dining out more; how are you persuading them to get back in the kitchen?
As an extroverted Millennial, I do see the appeal in eating out, yet this cookbook is all about doing impressive food that’s cost effective and dare I say it, EASY! There is nothing more special than entertaining in the comfort of your own home with good food, wine and friends.
What impact have social media and celebrity cooking shows had on today’s society?
With incredible shows such as MasterChef and the like, it has only invigorated Australians to be a bit more daring in the kitchen. Not every person watching is going to make 3,072 layered cake, which requires ingredients from the summit of Everest and a kitchen gizmo that is a casual $5k cost; however, it does inspire people to get more creative and stretch their minds as to how they perceive food and cooking.
What sets your book apart from other cookbooks?
It’s fun! Sounds like a cop out answer, but the aim of the cookbook is that you don’t even need to be in the kitchen to enjoy it. It’s got humour, sass and loads of personality, with a side of beautiful imagery and delectable recipes.
What type of delicious recipes can we expect, and what’s your favourite?
The book is based on entertaining; therefore, we have eight chapters of eight different occasions, such as date night, weeknight dinner and brunch, just to name a few. The book is diverse and caters to all people. My favourite recipe today would have to be the caramelised chicken – you will all love it … Except vegetarians, obviously.
How can we get a copy of your book?
Head to www.jacobfood.com – for this month we have free shipping as well, so go on, treat yourself!
Interview: Bronwyn Davis.